Chances are that you or someone you know has had fraudulent charges on their credit or debit card at some point. If the amount is small enough and you catch it quickly, it can be an easy fix. But when amounts get larger and the credit fraud becomes more involved, it can turn into a nightmare.
Protect your existing accounts.
Be careful where you use your credit and debit cards. Thieves use devices called skimmers at ATMs and gas pumps to steal your card information. These devices can also be handheld, so to prevent credit fraud, be watchful when you hand your card to a cashier and consider using cash at restaurants. Wait staff usually has to walk away with your card, giving dishonest employees the opportunity to steal your card information.
When you shop online, use only reputable websites and secure internet connections. Fraudulent websites may advertise goods and services to trick you into entering your card information, or could have links that can download malware meant to harvest personal information from your computer. Red flags to watch out for are deals that appear too good to be true, bad grammar, and the lack of a privacy or return policy.
Check your account activity often to prevent credit fraud. Even if you are careful, creative thieves may still find ways to get your information and the sooner you discover the crime, the easier it will be to clean up the mess. If you wait for your monthly statements, that will give the thief more time to spend your money than if you canceled the card right away.
Watch for other suspicious activity.
Criminals can also use your personal information to open new accounts in your name. The best way to prevent this kind of fraud credit is to monitor your credit report. You can get a free copy of your credit report every year, or you can use a credit monitoring service to monitor your credit on a more regular basis. These services monitor your credit report and public records and alert you to new accounts or certain other changes.